Beginning Modeling for Source

09-02-2005, 03:41 AM
Here is my attempt to consolidate some info for the beginners out there. At the end there is a "What To Do First" section -- so scroll down if you don't have any idea where to start. ;)

The following is a list of resources that were helpful for me while getting started (and still are). I will try to keep all the links unbroken and update this as necessary. I've seen too many ancient help threads with almost all broken links. Hopefully this won't be one of them. Also, I'm actually a noob myself so feel free to add anything I'm missing.

(*Thankyou Jaboo224 for suggesting a better layout.*)

Tutorials and Specifics

Modeling Tutorials's Modeling Tutorials (
Modeling tutorials for Source.

Desty's M1911 Tutorial (
Video tutorial on creating a polygonal weapon model in XSI.

IchI's Handgun Tutorial (
Video tutorial on creating a polygonal weapon model in 3ds Max.

Valve's Modeling Wiki (
Info on modeling for Source.

UV Mapping Tutorials's UV Mapping Tutorials (
UV mapping tutorials for Source.

Ed Hariss's XSI UV Mapping Primer (
Older, but may be of help.

KillerMonkey's XSI UV Mapping Tutorial (
Familiarizing yourself with XSI's texturing interface.

Texturing Tutorials's Texturing Tutorials (
Texturing tutorials for Source. This is a must visit. Check out Jaboo224's tutorials.

Weapon Texture Tutorials (
A few texture creation tutorials geared more towards texturing weapons.

General Texturing Tutorials (
About 700 texturing tutorials. Do them all. ;)

Valve's Material/Texture Wiki (
Info on texturing for Source.

Rigging & Animating Tutorials

Kalamzo's Animation Lair (
Awesome resource on animating for Source.

KillerMonkey's XSI Animation Tutorial (
Familiarizing yourself with XSI's animating interface.

Valve's Skeleton/Rigging Wiki (
Info on rigging for Source.

Compiling Tutorials

Farles' Compiling Tutorial (
From Helpful and straightforward.

Valve's Compiling Wiki (
General info on compiling for Source.

Rendering Tutorials's Rendering Tutorials (
Rendering tutorials.

Assorted Tutorials

DOD Forums Tutorials (
Our very own tutorials forum! (
Tutorials on creating all sorts of content for Source. Must visit.

Polycount (
Tutorials on modeling for video games.

3DTotal Tutorials (
Note the tabs -- there are many tutorials.

Ed Harriss (
Large XSI tutorial database.

Milkshape 3D Tutorials (
Many tutorials for Milkshape 3D.


3D Content Creation Applications

XSI Mod Tool (
Free version of XSI. This is what Valve used to create content for Half-life 2.

3ds Max (
Very popular and a lot of support available.

Gmax (
Stripped but free version of 3dsMax.

Milkshape 3D (
A simpler, streamlined application. Source-ready and ideal for models with simple or no animations. Mappers looking for a way to model props -- look no further. $25 or EUR 25. (Thanks Jed)

The rest (
Trp. Jed's list of 3D creation packages.

Texture Creation Applications

The GIMP (
Paint.NET (
Inkscape (
Sodipodi (
Free graphic editors.

Photoshop (
Corel Paint Shop Family (
Costly alternatives.

Source Tools

Nemesis' Tools (
GCFScape, VTFEdit, and VTF Plugin for Photoshop are all very useful.

Cannonfodder's Tools (
StudioCompiler, MDLDecompiler, and 3ds Max SMD importers and exporters are useful.

Jed's Tools (
Making life a little easier.

General Information

Reference Pictures

Guns (
Tons and tons of guns. Incredible resource for finding basic info on hundreds of guns.

General Source Engine Help

Valve's Source Modeling Wiki (
All about getting models into Source.

More Source Modeling Wiki (
More about getting models into Source. Modeling Forums (
Place to ask questions when you need info on Source modeling. Modeling Forum (
Another good place to ask questions. (
Sick resource (tutorials, etc.) on creating all sorts of content for Source. Must visit.

XSI General Help

Mod Tool Navigation (
Finding your way around XSI Mod Tool.

Understanding XSI (
Tuts and docs geared more towards people who are knowledgable about 3D creation, but who are new to XSI. Nevertheless -- helpful.

Ed Harriss (
Large XSI tutorial database.

XSI Base (
Forums and tutorials.

3ds Max General Help

3ds Max Homepage (
Contains documentation and links to helpful sites.

Other General Resources

3D Total (
General 3D.

3D Buzz (
General 3D.

Polycount (
Video game modeling.

What To Do First

Okay, so all these links are all nice and dandy, but if you don't know where the heck to start? There are so many resources to sift through -- some of them too elementary, some far too advanced, and too few just right for the beginner. However, I have tried to compile here at least some general resources that will be helpful other than for beginners. That's why I have also included this section -- so that beginners don't have to muck through all the stuff that isn't applicable, is too esoteric, or is too advanced. Hopefully this will provide a step by step _introduction_ to modeling in Source. Note that this is just one path to learning modeling in Source. I don't claim to be a guru on the subject by any means -- ha, I probably know less than anyone that frequents this subforum. The following is just a simple outline of just one way to get started. It may not be the best way, but I hope it is helpful.

Also, you will undoubtedly have questions along the way. Not all these resources cover every tiny detail, and even if I could, I wouldn't without making this thread a thousand pages long. You will have to seek out the information yourself. The best way to do so is to search like hell. Learn ( to use search engines to their maximum potential. Visit Source specific modeling forums such as's ( and's ( (There are others.) Be nice though, and search first. It's very rude to just barge into a community and demand an answer to a question that's been answered a hundred times in other posts. Make your posts grammatically correct and complete. Good etiquette will get you a long way.

Okay, now we're ready.

The first thing is to pick a 3D modeling package. While there are advantages and disadvantages to all, I would recommend -- for modeling in Source -- either XSI Mod Tool ( or 3ds Max ( XSI because it's free and what Valve used for HL2, and 3ds Max because of its widespread use (and therefore there is an abundance of help available). 3ds Max is expensive unless you can get it at a discount (school, company, etc.). If you are thinking of pirating 3ds Max, I urge you to try XSI Mod Tool first. I don't approve of piracy and XSI is quite good. It will provide you with more than enough features for a long, long, long time. If you do get 3ds Max though, you will probably want Cannonfodder's 3ds Max importers and exporters (

Another alternative is Milkshape 3D ( While it does cost a small amount, its interface is very simple and is a perfect option for mappers who need to make simple props, animated or not. Easy on the hard drive, too.

Then, it would be wise to familiarize yourself with the package you've chosen. This ( is helpful for navigating in XSI Mod Tool. And try any of the tutorials here ( Although the second link is more advanced information, it will help you get used to the XSI interface and its various tools. For 3ds Max, check out the 3ds Max homepage ( for documentation and links. I don't have any such familiarization tutorial links for any of the other packages at the moment, but they are definitely out there.

Next, you could try out a simple weapon modeling tutorial. It will teach you some more of the basics of polygonal modeling. Desty's Colt M1911 ( tutorial for XSI and IchI's handgun ( tutorial for 3ds Max. The tutorials are videos and thus are very intuitive. You may want to create your own model (or a couple) before moving on to the more advanced things -- texturing, uvmapping, animating, compiling, etc. Or you could jump right into it.

Now you can learn to UV map -- aka "unwrapping" your mesh so that you can texture it. 3ds Max users check out's UV Mapping Tutorials ( XSI users can look at Ed Hariss's XSI UV Mapping Primer ( and KillerMonkey's XSI UV Mapping Tutorial ( You may still need additional resources to understand UV mapping. I am in search of tutorials.

For texturing, you'll need a graphics creation application. Photoshop ( is the one, but not the only. If you can afford it (don't be a naughty pirate now...), get it. But if you can't, I suggest using The GIMP ( It's free and does the job. Then check out's texturing tutorials ( and/or this ( Those tutorials should get you on your way to understanding how to create textures. If you don't have Photoshop you may have to fudge some of the tutorials a bit -- just experiment and eventually you'll find a way. If you use The GIMP, you can Google GIMP Plugins ( and find some more tools for your disposal.

--Under construction-- --Will add as time permits--

To do

Need more good tutorials for ALL sections but especially
--UV Mapping
Add more to "General 3ds Max" section
Add Tutorials/"General" sections for other 3D packages
Finish "What to do first" section
Layout always subject to change

And I'm sure I missed something.

If anyone can help with any of the above, send me a PM and I'll be very grateful.

09-02-2005, 06:05 AM
Nice thread :)

Some realistic information on poly counts:

Hands+Weapon: <4000
World Weapon: <1300
Characters: <5000 high poly, else <3500
Tanks/Artillery: <5000 (if used once per visible area)
Widely used props (e.g. windows): <200

Some numbers are taken from actual CSS poly counts. In a few days we'll see with how much DoDS comes up with.

The high poly replacement models can go up to 10k.

Texture size usually 512x512 (2 of them on characters), better don't use 1024x1024.

The XSI source exporter has a limit of afaik 7500. Dont combine high poly stuff to one mesh, there's a lower per mesh limit (i guess around 3000).

09-03-2005, 12:48 PM
1024x1024 for v_model weapon skins. 2048x2048 is possible also.

09-03-2005, 10:05 PM
Updated this sucker a bit. Figured with Source coming out, we're bound to find some more activity in here -- so may as well have a decent updated resource thread. Will add/reorganize more as time permits.

And please add any info that would be helpful for up and coming modelers. Such as in Ranson's and Agent~0's posts -- or whatever helps.

I really need help on info about animating (specifics in regards to Source, not just creating key-frames and watching it go) and creating and compliling the .qc file. Honestly I don't know but just a few tidbits here and there about that stuff, but I'm looking for a more detailed resource. The Source wikis have some info, but it seems to be made more for people who already know all about it... If anyone has some links, I'd appreciate it.

Trp. Jed
09-04-2005, 06:16 AM
Originally posted by [DoD]Agent~0
1024x1024 for v_model weapon skins. 2048x2048 is possible also.

Is that a hard-coded limit in DoD:S? I've made models for HL2DM/CS:S that use 4096x4096 textures and they seem to run O.K.

09-04-2005, 01:22 PM
Errr no offence but the general layout of your whole post is really poorly put together.

09-04-2005, 09:17 PM
Originally posted by jaboo224
Errr no offence but the general layout of your whole post is really poorly put together.

Thanks for that. You wanna give me some pointers?

Edit: I'm serious. Like I said, I'm a noob. A lot of that stuff might be better organized. Give me some direction instead of saying that it's just poor. How should I divide it up, etc. Please PM me or reply if you have suggestions...I'll even credit you -- not that it's worth much.

09-05-2005, 07:38 AM
seemed well organised and informative when i read it. thanks for taking the time bazooka - will surely help me out in learning to model :E

09-08-2005, 05:03 PM
Massive overhaul! Thanks jaboo224 for the suggestions -- hope I didn't screw it up too bad (let me know if I did). :)

To do

Need more good tutorials for ALL sections but especially
--UV Mapping
Add more to "General 3ds Max" section
Add Tutorials/"General" sections for other 3D packages
Finish "What to do first" section
Layout always subject to change

And I'm sure I missed something.

If anyone can help with any of the above, send me a PM and I'll be very grateful.

Trp. Jed
09-08-2005, 05:10 PM
You haven't recommended Milkshape3D for Source modelling which would be ideal for any mappers or those making prop models.

09-08-2005, 05:17 PM
I haven't really used Milkshape, so yeah, that's why. I guess that's a good point though -- I was coming at this from the angle of people wanting to do view models and player models, and more complex things. But for statics and props I suppose Milkshape would be great.

So what makes it ideal for that sort of thing? Just the simplicity, basically?

Trp. Jed
09-08-2005, 05:26 PM
Well from the point of view of mappers, their going to need to be able to do basic modelling as models are used a lot more in maps.

Milkshape3D is much simpler in terms of the interface and functions and doesnt have a gazillion different things to confuse you. Sure, the modelling tools are kind of basic but you can still achieve quite a lot of you take the time to sit and try each tool out. Put it this way, every player model I've made up until now has been done in Milkshape.

3DS Max and XSI are great - but their also geared towards animation and such with rigging, weighted vertices, etc. which a mapper or prop modeller wont really need.

09-08-2005, 09:46 PM
great tutorials and handy list thanks, but maya falls deeper into darkness, i'd write some maya tutorials but i'm lazy as hell

09-10-2005, 05:13 PM
Originally posted by Trp. Jed
Is that a hard-coded limit in DoD:S? I've made models for HL2DM/CS:S that use 4096x4096 textures and they seem to run O.K.

I read somewhere, that it's not Source setting the limit to 2048, but the graphic cards. The modern gpus can handle 4096x4096 (technically).
But remember, in HL2 only the gman face seen during the intro and extro, made use of a 2048x2048 normal map texture. This texture alone takes up to 12 mb gpu memory. A 4096 texture takes up to 50 mb...
Most people play with resolutions <= 1280x1024. A v_model with 2048 doesn't look any different than a v_model with 1024 for those people. A 1600x1200 user could possibly see a slight difference.

Trp. Jed
09-10-2005, 05:20 PM
No I agree, sometimes a big texture is a waste of space - however I'm thinking about say huge models that might be part of a skybox or a map model.

The U-Boat model I made for source uses a single 4096x4096 texture simply because of the size of the model (U-Boats are huge) and using a single texture avoids any problems with joining up the edges of multiple small ones. Also 4096x4096 means I still retain the level of resolution I want in the texture for a model that large.

Still horses for courses really - have to weigh up the benefit/cost on a case by case basis.

09-10-2005, 06:30 PM
Nice thread bazooka, very helpful :)

The size of the textures are amazing, I have only just started on HL 1, the first thing that got me was the size of you have to work within.

Teachs you to be economic with design I suppose.

On the subject of reference web sites you may like to take a look at this one...
Digger History (

It is huge and holds quite a bit of WW2 stuff. It's not only Aussie/New Zealand info there is some other stuff ( as well.

09-18-2005, 06:00 AM
Can we PLEASE get this stickied?!?! I know I will have to track it down over and over again. Great thread!

Captain Spartacus
01-28-2006, 03:05 AM
Indeed very damn helpful, GJ Bazooka.

This thread is stickt material.

01-28-2006, 05:19 AM
Oh. Crap! You bumped this thread! TBH, I didn't (don't) really know much about Source modeling. I was interested at the time of this thread's creation, but it waned as school started. I may get interested in modeling again at some point, but I doubt I'll ever update this, sadly. It's still a decent list of links, though, but the "What to do first section" is kind of...meh.

Glad to hear it was helpful. :)

01-28-2006, 08:29 AM
What about us Maya-lovers? :eek:

Palmer's Maya Prop Exporting Tutorial :

Maya SMD Exporter (used in tutorial) :

I'm using it and it works great. Only made props so far though, but should work OK with animated models, such as view-models too.

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